Grass tends to grow year round in South Florida. Summer growth is more pronounced because of warmer weather, longer daylight hours, and heavy rainfall, which provides natural fertilization. Winter or cooler months produce slower growth because of a lack of the above. When soil temperatures drop below 55 degrees, growing and nutritional intake diminish greatly. Mowing frequency during high growth periods should increase to 7–10 day intervals. Off season cutting can drop to 2 – 3 weeks if cool weather prevails.
Proper watering is critical to the health and appearance of your turf. During the warmer months watering should be done as often as 3 times weekly, only if rainfall is absent. However, during periods of adequate rainfall, your irrigation system should be shut off as too much water is as equally damaging to turf as drought .
Most of us turn our irrigation system on and forget about them. Adjusting properly for current conditions is critical. The best frequency to water is actually determined by the turf.
The University of Florida states that you should water at the initial wilt of the grass blade. This is impractical for most of us, but attention to frequency based on conditions is important. If not under water restriction, the generally accepted rule of thumb is 1 to 2 times weekly during the cooler months, and 3 times weekly during summer months, unless we are having adequate rainfall.
The amount of water applied is also critical. The usual misconception we encounter is that watering in small amounts more often is best. It is far more important to irrigate long enough for the water to penetrate to the root zone. Failure to penetrate the root zone creates a shallow root system.
One inch of water allows for several inches of soil penetration promoting a healthier deep rooted turf.
The proper amount of ¾ to 1 inch is determined by running time. Most systems that are properly working will furnish this amount in about 25 to 30 minutes. If you have a lot of time on your hands, place a pie pan on your lawn just before the next cycle and examine it afterwards. You can better judge the time requirements in this manner. If the pie pan is full after the watering cycle, the time is adequate. If not, adjust accordingly.
Turf is best suited for full sunlight. Highly shaded areas cause the thinning of turf. Selective pruning of trees will allow more sunlight and will help reduce this effect. There are also varieties of turf such us palmetto sod (St. Augustine) which are more tolerant to shade, but even this hybrid performs best in full sun. It is important to make the proper choice of plant material based on its tolerance for shade or sun.
-Mowing (proper height and frequency): St. Augustine looks best when the cutting height is 3 inches.
-Summer cutting: 7 to 10 day intervals.
-Pruning and trimming: selective trimming and pruning is always best for trees and shrubs.
Heavy pruning and hat raking of trees exposes previously shaded portions of the tree or bush causing sunburn. Hat racking of trees also promotes sucker growth at each cut which can lead to the decline and possible death of the tree.
Nutrition, Insects, and Diseases:
A good pest and nutritional program enhances the beauty and health of all landscape material. Nutritional deficiencies can appear as yellowing or off color leaves of palm fronds. Stunting can also occur as a result of insufficient nutrition. Insects can damage plants by chewing on the leaves, leaving a notching effect. Other insects pierce the leaf sucking the chlorophyll from the plant causing yellowing, blooms to drop, and leaves to shrivel.
There are a wide variety of fungal pathogens present in the soil. When conditions exist for development, the fungal spores will grow and cause damage to turf or plants. Some fungi are more suited for cooler weather while others flourish during warmer months. Over watering is usually the key ingredient that aides in their development. Fungicides are applied to control the growth of spores reducing damage and allowing the turf or plant to return to normal appearance. Multiple applications may be required.
Weeds occur during all seasons. Weeds are a symptom of poor turf care including scalping, insect problems and over or underwatering. Weeds are divided into broadleaf, sedges, and grassy weeds. Specific herbicides are applied depending on the type of weeds present.
Weed control is usually performed during the cooler months to avoid stunting or yellowing of the turf. Some products allow for treatment in all seasons, but caution must be used. Even so, stunting or yellowing may occur.